Winter Weather on Ithaca

This Blog was written by our Ionian Villas manager on Ithaca, Sue White.

Sue lived on Kefalonia for 18 years and has now been living on Ithaca for 5 years.

Sue is a taxi driver on Ithaca – one of twelve drivers.

Sue looks after our clients and is able to give a valuable, personal insight into the history, culture and lifestyles of Ithaca.

Sue has her own website: Ithaca Travel Services

“A lot of people who visit Greece in the summer are under the impression that there is wall to wall sunshine year-round. In my taxi, apart from being asked the usual list of questions as to how I ended up being an English lady taxi driver on a small Greek island, the conversation then switches to ‘the weather’.

It’s not only tourists who have an interest in the weather. The locals here on Ithaca also have a very healthy interest on the subject, and of course they are all experts! From fishermen, shepherds and even the all-knowing γιαγιαδες (grand matriachs), I hear conflicting predictions about the weather but this last summer they all seemed to agree with each other. In August temperatures of 40 Degrees the talk was of a ‘βαρύ Χειμώνας’ (a heavy winter) – and they were right.

After a reasonably mild November and December, the New Year kicked off with freezing cold temperatures and snow, swiftly followed by days of torrential rain. For the first time in 10 years the snow settled all over the island – not just the mountain villages but also on the beaches!

Ithaca

January snow on an Ithaca olive tree

When the snow was washed away by days of relentless rain, the mountain streams flowed down the valleys to resemble a Lake District landscape (apart from the olive trees!). Ithaca, an island rich in pasture land and olive groves, is now super lush and green.

Ithaca

Snowy Stavros village

One of the effects of the snow, say the fishermen, shepherds and γιαγιαδες, is that invasive bugs have been frozen and they are now predicting a good olive harvest next October.”

Ithaca

Post snow streams

Fiscardo Before the Sun Umbrella Invasion

2016-04-28 07.20.15 (1824 x 1368)Fiscardo is undoubtedly one of the most colourful and prettiest ports in the Ionian.

In 1953 an earthquake destroyed all Kefalonia buildings except those in Fiscardo and a few outlying villages.

In my early Greek Islands Club days we took on a small programme of village houses for those visitors wanting to spend lazy days people and boat watching on Fiscardo waterfront.

In the early 1980’s a coffee on Fiscardo waterfront would have cost around 25 cents in today’s money.

Many of the Greek islands still hold on to a simple lifestyle and do not let the demands of blinkered tourism dictate their future. But whereas an older island generation may not want change, the younger generation will naturally be aspirational: the BMW versus the donkey.

Running a travel business often leads one to hypocrisy. I always tried to offer holiday opportunities to those wanting to escape the crowds and to get to know and be part of a simple Greek island community. In 1990 the BBC Holiday Programme asked me if we would host a film crew in Fiscardo. I said yes. Holiday bookings to Fiscardo soared the following year and Fiscardo started to take on a more chic appearance.

A coffee on Fiscardo waterfront can now cost 4 Euros.

The following photos were taken in 1990 when my mum (Buz), my wife (Vivienne) and I introduced Lorraine Chase (as the Presenter), a BBC researcher plus a cameraman and sound man to the beautiful landscapes of northern Kefalonia and Fiscardo.

You will see that there were only a very few café bar tables and chairs and wooden fishing boats outnumbered fibreglass cruisers. There were also no waterfront sun umbrellas. Today’s waterfront wall of sun umbrellas provide welcoming shade but I still prefer the openness that existed pre-invasion and also the look of traditional, rickety cafenion chairs and chipped metal tables.

But life goes on and Fiscardo will still dazzle and delight.

Lorraine Chase in Fiscardo

Selfie with Lorraine!

Fiscardo waterfront Lorraine Chase

Lorraine & my mum!

Fiscardo waterfront

Fiscardo waterfront 1990

Fiscardo waterfront

Vivienne and Alex at Villa Theodora – this is now a waterfront bar.

Friends of Paxos

Whether Greece stays in the Euro and/or the European Community or not, she will continue to depend on tourism as one of her most important income opportunities.

Thousands of visitors each year to the smaller Greek islands have a serious impact on local infrastructures. Over time these islands will inevitably lose part of their culture, traditions, lifestyle, character, identity and soul.

Once this has happened it will be hard to recover what has been lost.

On the tiny island of Paxos, a new initiative has been set up by Faye Lychnou and Christos Boicos to initiate, encourage and organise cultural activities of every type on the island to include concerts and festivals, art exhibitions, art residencies and  workshops to involve people and culture from Paxos and from outside.2014-09-30 14.16.09.

This initiative is called Friends of Paxos. Faye and Christos understand the fragility of Paxos’ heritage and its environment and are keen to encourage projects concerning the island’s preservation.

At a time when public budgets and cultural initiatives in Greece are few, Friends of Paxos will look to private financing of its projects.

Ionian Villas wants to become a Friend of Paxos and once the projects become more concrete, we will announce them on this blog in the hope that we can encourage others to become a Friend.

 

 

 

Newsletter for 2015

Ionian Villas is 3 years old. We have so far booked Ionian island properties for just over 1,500 people and we are now arranging villa holidays for their friends and friends of friends.

We wish you a Healthy & Happy New Year and hope to see you again sometime.

We have added some new properties for 2015:

Villa Jupiter, Paxos

Villa Jupiter, Paxos

 

On Paxos: Cressida, Georgina, Jupiter, Serifos Apartments, Thalassa Beach Apartments.

On Corfu: Aleka, Alexandra, Helios, Varvara, Country House.

On Kefalonia: Adrianna, Kiriaki Apartments.

On Ithaca: Kitrino.

A more comfortable arrival at Corfu

BA’s new flight to Corfu from Heathrow departs 4 times per week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday) from 2nd May to 20th September.

Whenever we fly to Corfu (and then on to Paxos and the other islands) we spend the first night in Corfu Town and quite often on the way back as well. Apart from being a beautiful town there are now many excellent restaurants and bars so a first night at one of our featured hotels (Cavalieri or Corfu Palace), dinner under grapevines at one of the nearby restaurants and catching the hydrofoil to Paxos the following morning all adds to the holiday tonic to unwind.

Many of the Paxos villa owners ask for a Monday changeover day. Monday is the busiest day for flights to Corfu and as a consequence the prices of Monday flights tend to be higher than on other days of the week. There can therefore be a price incentive to fly to Corfu on a Sunday, overnight at a Corfu hotel and then on to Paxos the following day.

Meet our Island Managers

Alex on Paxos

Alex on Paxos

Alex is our Paxos manager. Alex has been going to Paxos since he was 6 months old.

Karron is our Kefalonia manager. Karron lives with her family on Kefalonia.

Karron on Kefalonia

Karron on Kefalonia

Susan White is our Ithaca manager. You can find out more about Sue at Ithaca Concierge

Patricia Taylor is our Lefkas and Meganissi manager. Patricia has spent many years on Lefkas and can introduce you to the island’s hidden parts.

Sue on Ithaca

Sue on Ithaca

Patricia on Lefkas

Patricia on Lefkas

One of our managers once told me that when she was a Rep for a package holiday company on the island, she was told that their new policy was to employ the same Rep for a maximum of 2 years. It would seem that in their determination to have a fresh face they would lose the valuable local knowledge of a more experienced person.

Our managers are there to offer you all the help and advice you may need at any time but not to intrude on your holiday. The life of the island is more important to each of them than commissions earned on selling you a coach trip to an unforgettable ouzo-fuelled sunset.

The Seasons of Greece

Those of you with children at school will be restricted by school holiday dates. Good old supply and demand means that holiday prices in the peak summer season are considerably higher than in other months.

Package holiday companies will also apply a high mark-up on their holidays falling within Half Term and Bank Holidays – most of our villa owners have higher peak season prices but their end of May prices (May Bank Holiday) do not always carry this supplement.

For those of you who have more flexible dates, why not visit the Greek islands during the different seasons to vary your experience.

Spring in Greece usually arrives one month before ours. At our house on Paxos we have a 40 foot Mimosa tree and it is ablaze with sherbert-yellow blossom in early March. April normally has clear sunny days with temperatures in the late 50’s but no point in choosing a villa with a pool as the water needs longer to warm up. Greek Orthodox Easter is 12th April – a colourful event which should be experienced once in your life.

Grazing above Assos

Grazing above Assos

 

In May one can feel the days getting warmer (mid 60’s). The islands are still lush with Spring wildflowers – great for exploring on goat paths through olive groves and valleys of bracken. If you haven’t seen a Greek island valley lit up by the tiny flashing lights of fireflies on a warm May evening – shame on you!

In June the sea has a warmer, more sensuous welcome. There is a greater excuse to escape the midday sun and enjoy an afternoon siesta. Temperatures are mid 70’s. Walkers can still enjoy island exploration – as a legacy of the Venetian occupation of the Ionian islands, olive groves provide shade for many of the island goat paths.

July and August temperatures climb into the 80’s so stay close to water! You have to work a bit harder to find a deserted beach – hire a boat; pack a simple lunch of fresh bread, olive oil & garlic, feta cheese, salami, chilled retsina and baseball-sized peaches; buy more sun umbrellas than are needed – find a small deserted cove and erect all sun umbrellas to give the impression of a crowd to deter any sea invaders.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In September the sea is at its warmest and temperatures start to fall to more comfortable mid 70’s. You notice more local islanders returning to their favourite waterfront cafénions now that the busier months of tourism are over and village lifestyles become less frenetic. On Paxos a Classical Music Festival in early September is another experience not to be missed.

October has temperatures in the mid 60’s so ideal for walkers and for those looking for an escape from the crowds and a burst of sunshine and beautiful natural surroundings before the onslaught of a dank, dark British winter.

Paxos olive groves

Paxos olive groves

 

Do you like garlic? Have you tried olive oil infused with garlic? Pour a generous amount of olive oil into a small, empty water bottle and add crushed garlic. Leave for as long as possible and take with you on beach picnics to be poured over hunks of fresh bread.

Pa amb oli” means “bread with olive oil” in Mallorquin, and it is as commonly eaten in the Balearic Islands as pa amb tomàquet is in Catalonia.

Pa ambo li Ingredients:

6 (3/4-inch thick) slices of bread (dark rye is probably best)

1 clove garlic

3 tomatoes, halved crosswise

Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

Salt

Preparation: Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Place the bread slices on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 5 minutes, or until golden and crisp. Remove from the oven and immediately rub 1 side of each slice with a cut side of the garlic. Then rub the same side of each slice with the cut side of a tomato half, pressing a little to squeeze some of the pulp and seeds onto the bread. Drizzle olive oil over the tomato and sprinkle with salt. Serve while the bread is still warm and crisp. Yum.

Fireflies

A friend on Paxos once told me that as a young boy he caught fireflies in a jam jar to use as a lantern when walking back home through the olive groves.

Tinkerbell Fireflies

Tinkerbell Fireflies

 

There are more than 2,000 species of fireflies, or lightning bugs, and they are actually winged beetles. Typically only seen in the summertime because they thrive in warm and tropical environments, a firefly’s glowing mechanism serves several purposes.

However, the blinking patterns of the firefly’s abdomen remain a mystery, as scientists are unsure of whether the patterns are controlled by the insect’s nerve cells or oxygen supply.

Adult fireflies shine different intermittent signals to grab the attention of possible future mates. Flash patterns vary from short burst to a long continuous flashing sequence, and different firefly species have their own unique successions of light, making it easier for compatible mates to find each other.

Both male and female fireflies turn on their green lights when choosing a mate, and use their blinking lights as a means to communicate during courtship.

Fireflies appear to light up for a variety of reasons. The larvae produce short glows and are primarily active at night, even though many species are subterranean or semi-aquatic. Fireflies produce defensive steroids in their bodies that make them unpalatable to predators. Larvae use their glow as warning displays to communicate their distastefulness. As adults, many fireflies have flash patterns unique to their species and use them to identify other members of their species as well as to discriminate between members of the opposite sex. Several studies have shown that female fireflies choose mates depending upon specific male flash pattern characteristics. Higher male flash rates, as well as increased flash intensity, have been shown to be more attractive to females in two different firefly species.

Paxos Big Brother

The Genesis Taverna on Gaios waterfront have set up a live webcam – have a look to check out the weather: Paxoswebcam

Return of the Ionian Seaplane?

The hydrofoil between Corfu and Paxos takes 1 hour. I can remember when the only connection between the islands was by caique and it took up to 5 hours.

Eight years ago a Canadian company set up a seaplane service connecting Corfu, Paxos and Ithaca – the flight time between Corfu and Paxos was just 10 minutes (plus around 20 minutes to get out of the port to reach the “strip”).

It is reported that the Greek Merchant Marine Minister Miltiades Varvitsiotis (try saying that after a few drinks) and Deputy Infrastructure and Transport Minister Michalis Papadopoulos recently signed a decision “paving the way for the country’s first official hydroplane on the Corfu coastline”.

The strip, which is to be operated by the island’s port authority, will be able to serve Greece’s first fleet of hydroplanes and improve connections between the islands and mainland Greece. Watch This Space.

 

 

Bicentenary of Edward Lear’s Birth

Villa Aphrodite's view over Mon Repos

Edward Lear is well known for his limericks and nonsense rhymes such as “The Owl and the Pussycat”. Lear however dedicated more of his time as a landscape painter. He travelled on foot and horseback through 19th Century Greece, Albania, Southern Italy and the Middle East making drawings, watercolours, lithographs and paintings of landscapes, which he sold to wealthy clients.

Lear returned to Corfu many times. He referred to the island as “No other spot on earth can be fuller of beauty and of variety of beauty.”

To celebrate the bicentenary of Lear’s birth, an exhibition of his works of art will be held (25 May to 31 August 2012) at the Corfu Museum of Asian Art, which is part of the elegant Palace of St Michael and St George close to the Liston and the heart of Corfu’s Old Town.

Just a few kilometres outside Corfu Town, just above Mon Repos (where Prince Philip was born) and set in large private grounds above the sea is Villa Aphrodite, which offers sumptuous accommodation for up to 10 guests.

Discover the Real Ithaca

Walkers rest in Ithaca olive grove

Ithaca is an island which will appeal to those wanting to escape a busy, noisy lifestyle. But will there be enough to occupy the wound-up mind, which sometimes needs more than a week to jettison unwanted pressures and can refuse to sit happily with simple and peaceful island distractions?

Recharging batteries is important and the small ports of Kioni and Frikes are perfect sleepy venues to do little but gaze at fishermen cleaning their nets. Island exploration however, will introduce many more natural delights to help the mind forget home based anxieties.

Hiring a boat (with outboard engine) is a great way to find a deserted beach and explore a beautiful coastline with just the company of seabirds. Pack a picnic or moor up alongside one of Kioni or Frikes’ waterfront tavernas for lunch.

Hiring a car will provide easy access to many parts of Ithaca but the more hidden parts are more difficult to find.

Katrina Parsey is our Ionian Villas agent on Ithaca. Katrina is a poet, storyteller and walker. With a few winter breaks back in UK as an actress, theatre director, writer and teacher, Katrina has spent the last 12 years on Ithaca. Over these years she has discovered a variety of walking trails and now leads daily walks (when the weather is not too hot) to introduce Ithaca’s more inquisitive visitor to the island’s people, history, mythology, flora, fauna and hidden landscapes.

Katrina says “Join me on a cultural walk exploring the sites and stories of Odysseus and Penelope. Or come along to the Folklore Walk, taste local wine, cheese, oil and olives on an ancient land. See the old olive press and wheat mill at Agrotiri. Walk along shepherds’ trails and discover the past and present of Ithaca’s farming culture.”

Leave your worries on the doorstep and discover an island which many have heard of but few visited.